Luka Modrić: How a former shepherd and a refugee became a Ballon d’Or winner

Almost a decade dominance of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi came to an end on Monday night. A new face was adorned with the much coveted Ballon d’Or award, signaling a new beginning in world football. In fairness to Messi and Ronaldo they have been extraordinary within these years. Some speed and energy have been lost but the duo still have some tricks in them, and could win the award again.

“The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.” Brazil football legend, Pele

Such is the story of our new Ballon d’Or winner. A goat shepherd at the early age of five, Modrić survived the hurdle and bustle during Croatian War of Independence to become world number one footballer.

A five-year-old Modrić looking after goats

Losing his beloved grandfather also named Luka Modrić during the war was a sad experience for Modrić, who took to football in the refugee camp as a means of escape from the war.

A talent was discovered, a passion found as Modrić found love in his new venture “…and broke more windows than the bomb explosions,” in Zadar during the war. The young boy of ten years quickly enrolled with local club academy NK Zadar from where he joined Croatia football giant Dinamo Zagreb in 2002.

Luka Modrić playing for Dinamo Zagreb

Modrić early years at Dinamo Zagreb was occupied with loans to Bosnia and Herzegovina side Zrinjski Mostar and Inter Zapresic in 2003 and 2004 respectively. He won Bosnian and Herzegovinian League Player of the Year with the former, while he helped the latter to finish second ahead of parent club Dinamo Zagreb in Croatian First Football League, winning Croatia’s young player of the year in the process. Modrić returned to Dinamo Zagreb in 2005 spending 3 full season at the club. He won three consecutive league titles, two Croatian Cups and a Croatian Super Cup within this period and was named HNL’s Footballer of the Year in 2007.

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Amidst interest from several European heavy weight including Barcelona, Arsenal and Chelsea, Modrić finally signed for Tottenham in 2008. After a slow start to live in English football Modrić then established himself as one of Tottenham’s most reliable player alongside Gareth Bale. His time at Tottenham ended with no trophy but by the time he left in 2012, Tottenham had become a strong force in England, qualifying for their maiden UEFA Champions League in 2010.

Luka Modrić playing for Real Madrid in the 2018 Champion League final against Liverpool

From being considered too slight and too weak to become a top-level footballer by Hajduk Split scouts to being labelled as a light-weight for the Premier League by a section English media and former Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger. Modrić journey to Real Madrid was a long and steep one, but the 33–year-old has a lot to be proud of. After being named the worst signing in La Liga in his first season at the club, he has grown to become one of Madrid’s most consistent player. Winning all that there is to win in Spanish football.

A creative play-maker, a hard worker and a gentleman Modrić relies more on his tactical proficiency and intelligence than in physique which he is at a disadvantage. He is a versatile midfielder who can play across all midfield positions and likes to control the game. His key attribute is his ability to beat his maker with ease, his defense splitting passes and a good long range shooting accuracy.

Luka Modrić won the golden ball at 2018 FIFA World Cup

His football qualities have been praised by several former and current players and coaches, with the likes of former Croatia forwards Davor Šuker and Robert Prosinečki, former Yugoslavia midfielder Dragan Stojković, Croatia international teammates Ivan Rakitić and Vedran Ćorluka, former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes and former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson all praising his game reading ability.

Since signing for Dinamo Zagreb at the age of sixteen. Modrić has played professional football for over 15 years winning 20 major trophies and over 20 individual awards. He has made over 603 club football appearances within this period with 74 career goals. Modrić is the second most capped Croatia player after Darijo Srna with 118 caps and 14 goals. With his Ballon d’Or award on Monday Luka Modrić becomes the first player to win the award aside Messi and Ronaldo since 2008.

Everybody at Jupitasports join the rest of the world to say congratulations to our latest Ballon d’Or winner.